Officially, the penitentiary system has 35 institutions: 12 prison compounds (Centros Penitenciarios), 15 detention centres (Internados Judiciales) with 15 female annexes, one penitentiary, two penitentiary communities, one women’s prison and four agricultural prison farms 1. However, it is difficult to estimate the actual number of penal institutions because police stations house people, even convicts, for long periods of time.
Many institutions are old hospital, military or school buildings. The National Penitentiary Humanisation Plan (Plan Nacional de Humanización Penitenciaria), which planned to build or remodel 25 correctional facilities between 2006 and 2011, only carried out three of its projects.
The MPPSP, within the framework of the so-called “Cambote Plan”, in effect since 2012 with the aim of improving the infrastructure of the country’s prisons, has closed five correctional facilities: Santa Ana prison, Los Teques detention centre, Cumaná prison, Casa de Reeducación y Trabajo (in English, “Home for Rehabilitation and Employment”), and Coro prison. However, only the Fénix correctional centre has been opened in Lara State.
Tocorón prison, self-governed by prisoners, has a discotheque, swimming pool, equestrian centre, and restaurant, among other amenities. It also has a “bank” through which prisoners deposit the causa (the amount to be paid to the self-governing body for being in the prison) every month2. The San Antonio prison in Margarita had similar facilities, but it was closed in February 20163.
The MPPSP was created in 2011, after the El Rodeo I massacre. The minister is Iris Varela Rangel.
The New Prison Regime, implemented in certain prisons beginning in 2012, seeks to regain control of institutions controlled by armed gangs. This programme is regularly denounced by human rights organisations, as it imposes rigorous military discipline on inmates and uses prolonged isolation and corporal punishment as forms of discipline.
The MPPSP has confirmed that the New Prison Regime is in effect in most correctional facilities in the country. However, there is only proof that it is actually being implemented in Rodeo II, Rodeo III, the Andean Region Penitentiary (Merida), the David Viloria Penitentiary known as Uribana (Lara), the Yare III Metropolitan Penitentiary (Miranda), the Occidente II Penitentiary (Táchira), the San Antonio prison (Margarita) and all juvenile detention centres. To regain control of the facilities, the MPPSP has been forced to transfer all inmates and start from scratch1.
According to Transparencia Venezuela, the MPPSP had a budget of 2,481,514,880 bolivars (USD $2,337,000) for 2015. The OVP estimates that this budget covers 40,000 more prisoners than there are2.
The Standing Commission on the Penitentiary Regime and Services of the Venezuelan National Assembly formulates relevant bills and monitors detention centres and jails.